Muschamp Rd

Xi’an Excursion

November 17th, 2005
Terracotta Warriors

I’ve been back from Xi’an for a couple of days now. And although I was thinking a lot on the trip, probably too much, I haven’t exactly been chomping at the bit to write this posting. It seems there are expectations.

Not only am I writing for people back home, but now my blog has become known to my Tsinghua MBA classmates as well as who knows how many back at Sauder. Nan nan’s boyfriend in Swedan found it the other day, but he wouldn’t say how…

I forgot to take my journal to Xi’an and I deliberately didn’t bring my PowerBook. I did start jotting down notes on a scrap of paper, but that was mainly song titles for the mix CD I’m making as a souvenir for all who went on the trip.

Us and Danna's family

I guess I’ll start there, after two reschedulings, Danna, Julia, Salina, Emlyn, and myself set out for Danna’s old home town and the capital of numerous Chinese dynasties, Xi’an. Notably absent was Ron who we had previously rescheduled the trip for. Apparently he had no less than three excuses… I pointed out that now we had no Americans with us, and there was much rejoicing.

We caught the train on Wednesday night. We shared a six bed cabin amongst ourselves. I got the bottom bunk but I didn’t sleep at all. This wasn’t much of a surprise to me. We were met at the Xi’an train station by Danna’s parents and ferried to our hotel. Our hotel was officially rated four stars by the Chinese government, and you can always trust the Chinese government.

Four Star Sign

The first attraction we went to was the Terracotta Warriors. Some have called this the 8th wonder of the world, but until they dig them all up and put them back together it is mostly a whole lot of dirt. More interesting to me, was the man behind all this, Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

In addition to the terracotta army, he had a massive tomb built for himself. The tomb just looks like a big hill with a garden around it, but inside was a lot of impressive engineering. Qin Shi Huang was a ruthless tyrant who killed all the people who built his tombs. After his death, there was little enthusiasm to finish the rest of his terracotta army. The army and numerous other stuff buried in the area surrounding his tomb were all to accompany him in the afterlife.

The Bell Tower lit up at night

After the Terracotta Warriors and Qin’s Tomb we were running out of daylight so ultimately we headed back to town. On the way Julia stated “I’m against democracy if it leads to us skipping dinner.” So we went to the Bell Tower downtown and ate at a nearby restaurant. We also sought a place to get ice cream, as someone had a craving. We also checked our email for the only time on the trip.

The next morning we set out on foot for the city walls. After walking around on them for a while we went to the forest of stone stile. Danna and possibly Emlyn enjoyed this a lot, but it wasn’t that exciting or photogenic.

Salina and Danna

We went for lunch and I insisted we have meat on a stick and beer. Meat on a stick goes great with beer, it’s a pairing that spans almost all cultures. It was such a successful meal we went for meat on a stick for dinner too!

However before we did that we met up with more of Danna’s family including her monkey uncle and cousin Du Du. We went to both the big and small Wild Goose Pagodas, but never got to climb either of them. In Japan you aren’t allowed to go inside the pagodas but apparently you can in China, but our timing was off.

We went for dinner at a Mongolian restaurant and ate in a tent. I was bonding with Danna’s uncle which led to much beer, meat, and fire water consumption. I have a lot of experience with crazy uncles so we got on swell. I wasn’t drunk. Even though I seemed to have been forced to drink and eat a lot. I even danced with Julia, with no incidents. We did a half waltz, half polka to some live Mongolian folk music, I even dipped her at the end. However while goofing around with the monkey uncle I fell and hit my head on a chair.

Danna's Monkey Uncle

I got up immediately complaining that I broke my glasses. It must have been a big tumble because everyone was worried about me. I was bleeding from my face. They insisted on taking me to the hospital. I told them I was fine, it was just a scratch. My left knee hurt more, but there was a lot of blood so off to the emergency room we go.

I had to have surgery. My surgery was me lying on an operating table while being stitched up. Although I was mad at myself for acting stupid, I had all my wits about me. Danna’s family was really worried so I had to use my limited Chinese to communicate that I was fine. I even wrote it down really simply on some paper in the doctor’s office. This is now to be framed I believe.

Dinner with Danna's family at Mongolian Restaurant

While on the operating table being stitched up, with eyes closed I reached into my pocket, pulled out my wallet, fished out a business card, spun it around and handed it with two hands to the orderly. I’m suppose to be memorizing an introduction in Chinese but in the heat of the moment I wasn’t doing so well orally so I gave them my card, besides every situation is a networking opportunity.

While waiting to have antibiotics injected into my ass, I recalled this snippet of poetry likely from my Grade 10 English class with Mr. Dr. Hargraves:

"A sadder and wiser man, he rose the morrow morn."

Me bleeding and on the way to the hospital

So if there was any doubt about me being drunk that should dispel them. I mean who else would recollect a line from a poem from high school English class after such an ordeal?

The next morning we set out from the Drum Tower after breakfast. I think we slept in some. My left knee was really hurting, but everyone was more concerned with my face. Now with two bad knees they made me climb up a tower. Then we went to the nearby Muslim quarter. We waited in line to go to a Chinese Muslim restaurant. The girls abandoned Emlyn and I to standing in line duty. However the joke was on them, the restaurant was a lot bigger inside than out, we didn’t wait long.

The Great Mosque of Xi'an

After we were seated on the fifth floor, Emlyn became worried as we had taken up half a table but with only two guys, who weren’t ordering anything. Eventually Danna and the others got back with food. Apparently in China you can bring in food to an eating establishment. We had dumplings, or something dumplingesque. Either way they were no comparison to meat on a stick. I ate approximately two.

Afterwards we did a lot of walking, mostly standing actually while I waited for others to shop. I ended up getting my chop made and bought more postcards. I also had a guy try to steal my camera right out of my pocket. I had zipped my pocket up too. I caught him red handed but I didn’t go berzerk. I was more surprised than anything. Next time I catch someone trying to steal from me, I’m kicking his ass.

After entirely too much shopping and me standing on my bad knees we finally went to the Great Mosque. This was the highlight of the trip for many. It is at the end of a long alley lined with shops selling all manner of knick-knacks and souvenirs. I bought a wooden mask for my mom. Salina proved to be the best bargainer so she and Danna’s mom helped me pay only 100 RMB.

Light Show

After the mosque we (just the foreigners) were dropped off at a modern Chinese tourist attraction. It is a giant park in the Tang dynasty style. At night it also had a fancy light show. It was actually really impressive but involved lots of standing and walking.

After this we drove to this little resort village in the hills. We had dinner with more of Danna’s family and slept there. The next morning we hiked in the hills. I was half blind and had two bad knees as you recall. Eventually we turned around and went back to the houses.

We drove back to town. We visited the grave sites of Danna’s two grandfathers then the houses of her two grandmothers. We met yet another aunt and ate a home cooked meal and too many pieces of fruit. Finally our time was done in Xi’an and we went to the train station.

This train was nicer and faster. It was four bunks to a cabin, so I was put on my own. Each bunk in this train has it’s own LCD screen and headphones. I was the only person in my cabin not to use mine. I didn’t sleep much again.

Back in Beijing I couldn’t find my ticket which caused a little chaos. Eventually I found it but it was annoying that I couldn’t leave the train station without it.

There are talks of more trips though it is unlikely we five will travel together again. We were a pretty easy going group. I’m making a mix CD right now to commemorate the trip. Because I’m picking almost all the songs it will be pretty melancholic.

Update December 2015

I still have a small scar on my face from this trip to Xi’an but worse I really did chip my kneecap and not a damn thing was done about it, for years I couldn’t kneel, even now my chipped knee is my good knee because my right was repeatedly injured playing sports. I have lots of health problems still but I manage, my life still hasn’t truly gotten better but I’m back in China, back blogging, or at least editing old postings to try and optimize my WordPress taxonomy. Another bright idea I got was to add larger photos from Flickr to my old posts because the inline images from back in 2005 were cropped mighty small because I still pay for all my own bandwidth and have no ads on this website.

There was much debate in our travels who took the best photos, but looking at the metadata on Flickr it is clear even with the oldest camera I took the best photos. Many photos I took were shared by others with folks back home, metadata doesn’t lie, at least not unless spammy SEO types aren’t involved.

My mom doesn’t understand it but I saved that bloody Mongolian scarf, I was always going to frame it somehow but it sits in a bag in a drawer at my mom’s house waiting for my return.

The Great Mosque in Xi'anEmlyn and the big drum

Xi'an City WallsChinese acrobats in Xi'an


  • oldiesgoodies

    Hey Musk, Could you please LISTEN to me with your heart for the first time or even the only time?

    You are a good guy, always ready to help the others. But you seem to lock yourself in your own world. My Monkey Uncle and I can perceive that clearly. So PLEASE take GOOD care of your No. 1 for nobody can really help you to become happy except yourself. Try to find out what this Chinese idiom means—画地为牢。

    If now your are stilling LISTENING, please leave all your problems back in Xi’an, buried with those over 700 emperors underground. (I believe your problems would be a piece of cake to them) No matter how terrible the problems seem to you, It is OVER. Toughen up and Go on with your life, which you only have for once.

    Feel free to email my Monkey Uncle (in Chinese of course) or Dudu or DouDou. They will be happy to get your emails. Do not worry about your surgery cost. If my Monkey Uncle insists in paying for that, take your surgery as a souvenir, which was operated by doctors in one of the most famous hospital in China. And do not worry about your “silm and fit girl friend” plan. No scar will be left on your nose.

    Anyone who also cares about Musk: Please help me to remind Musk to take good care of himself.:) For this guy never really listens to me. But maybe my monkey uncle has the power to make him listen.Because he has a framed piece of paper.:P

  • oldiesgoodies

    Hey Musk, Could you please LISTEN to me with your heart for the first time or even the only time?

    You are a good guy, always ready to help the others. But you seem to lock yourself in your own world. My Monkey Uncle and I can perceive that clearly. So PLEASE take GOOD care of your No. 1 for nobody can really help you to become happy except yourself. Try to find out what this Chinese idiom means—画地为牢。

    If now your are stilling LISTENING, please leave all your problems back in Xi’an, buried with those over 700 emperors underground. (I believe your problems would be a piece of cake to them) No matter how terrible the problems seem to you, It is OVER. Toughen up and Go on with your life, which you only have for once.

    Feel free to email my Monkey Uncle (in Chinese of course) or Dudu or DouDou. They will be happy to get your emails. Do not worry about your surgery cost. If my Monkey Uncle insists in paying for that, take your surgery as a souvenir, which was operated by doctors in one of the most famous hospital in China. And do not worry about your “silm and fit girl friend” plan. No scar will be left on your nose.

    Anyone who also cares about Musk: Please help me to remind Musk to take good care of himself.:) For this guy never really listens to me. But maybe my monkey uncle has the power to make him listen.Because he has a framed piece of paper.:P

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  • I did listen to my heart. I also listened to the advise of other people, people such as Gary, the BCC, my sister. I did everything they told me. I did way more than I usually do, which is just… well nothing productive. I’m so pessimistic, things never work out and it doesn’t matter what I do.

    I just doesn’t matter. I was honest. I was kind. I tried to help people. All it got me was grief. “No good deed goes unpunished.” And make no mistake about it I was punished. I was punished so harshly that it broke me. And dispite what everyone says I’m not sure I’ll ever get better or that I’ll ever be happy.

    I did look up your idiom but I’ve forgotten what it means. The one that I like the best, even better than ?三?四 is ?识抬举.

    There is a lot still unknown I guess, but I was told it was common knowledge. I think the people responsible have realized they went way too far. And now they just wish I would go away (which I did). I did everything that was asked of me and more. No good will come of all this. I said it then and I’m saying it now. I said a lot, perhaps too much, but it didn’t matter.

    As I emailed Sverre once, it doesn’t matter if you speak the truth if no one believes you.

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